Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just In the Shadow of Fame?

Yesterday I came across a documentary on the Paris Opera Ballet, in the course of which Kyra Nijinsky talks about her father, Vaslav Nijinsky, who, as everyone knows, was the greatest male dancer of the Ballets Russes ...

In 'Le Dieu Bleu'

With Tamara Karsavina in 'Le Spectre de la Rose'

In 'Giselle'

In 'Scheherazade'

For a time the ballerino was the lover of the founder of that company, Serge de Diaghilev ...

... and, in the interview, the animosity of daughter (and mother) towards the impresario is more than palpable.

I recall from Richard Buckle's definitive book 'Nijinsky' that Vaslav had had a number of male lovers or patrons before Diaghilev - but was sexually disinterested, in general. So I suspect that his marriage to Romula Pulszky was something conventionally stable to grab onto as he descended into the madness which completely claimed him several years later.

Kyra had somewhat of a career as a dancer and I became aware recently that her special resemblance to her father had been exploited in a photo (or series of photos?) of her in one of his greatest roles, 'Le Spectre de la Rose' ...

Kyra Nijinsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose'

Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose'

With all this material floating round in my my mind today, I was thinking that while Kyra's life could be judged from the point of view of her father's success it might be much more profitably approached from what she achieved.

Which brings me back to the documentary.

As well as being interviewed, it shows Kyra in another of her roles - that of some kind of Russian ballet expert/adviser - here in the mounting at the Paris Opera Ballet of a new production of the 'Polovtsian Dances' from the opera 'Price Igor'.

In the following clip, she seems to be teaching or perhaps more likely refining some steps with sexy Patrick Dupond ...

... in his role as the chief warrior ...

So I see Kyra Nijinsky as a big somewhat dominating personality that found a way of making an interesting life from some opportunities that came her way.

Ok, so what are we all going out to achieve tomorrow!


  1. Thank you so much for these wonderful clips. My guess is that they are from a documentary made some time ago that I've long wanted to see but seems unavailable. Kyra Nijinska was quite a character. Some say even more crazy than her father.
    Once at a week long dance teacher convention at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC, she was to be the guest teacher to give an hour class. About 200 dance teachers were waiting in the main ballroom to see the daughter of the great Vaslav Nijinsky and learn from her. She finally appeared on a platform dressed in a Kimono, took one look at all the teachers waiting and walked off without saying a word. Apparently she didn't like the looks of them.
    What a delight to be able to see this and thanx again for making it available. Where on earth did you find these clips. Do you have a copy of that documentary? I have long forgotten its name. Something like "When She Danced". Thanx so much.

  2. Richard Buckle! A name to conjure with! I actually worked briefly for him in the 1970s, at a Gala evening of Dance he was preparing at the London Coliseum. To say it was under-rehearsed would be an understatement, but as one of the featured dancers was Zizi Jeanmaire, much of the surrounding chaos could be overlooked... when Dickybuckle (his preferred mode of being addressed) was in the army he apparently distinguished himself amongst fellow officers by turning up at social gatherings in the Officers' Mess in full, and very glamorous, drag...

  3. hey iain

    i remember him being referred to as dickybuckle! and i imagine drag being very natural to him. i was in londo for much of the 70's as a kid but never met him - heard people talking about him a lot tho - people who had.

    what i've liked since about his books is the absolute wealth of detail - interpreting an era, a personality or whatever is easy enough but digging out solid facts tell so much

    and is something to be really admired too. well by me.

    can't get the image of him prancing about in a long evening gown out of my mind! not the sort of thing i thought i'd be thinking about in relation to kyra nijinsky!

  4. hey richka

    yes, they came from a documentary made in 1981 - 'SHE DANCES ALONE' - all i know about it but googling would give all the detail. i have a copy of bout 10 minutes but it's 58MB and gmail only allows 20MB attachments but the url for someone who has posted this part is:

    if you use modzila firefox as your brower, there's a free add-on (downoadhelper - just google it if you get the browser) and you can download any video you see on youtube

    any difficulties with this just contact me again

    and this is the URL for the review in the new york times when the doco came out:

    she does come across as intense and quite crazy so your story of the dance recital doesn't surprise me - in fact her father gave a similar recital round 1916 when he was going mad and he would rush around doing a few non-classical steps, stop and think for minutes on end and then do the same again.

    a shrink friend of mine tells me current views of the bases of mental illness are more related to bio-chemical imbalance with a familial twist - as opposed to just early experience.

    good to hear from you


  5. I have the complete text of 'she dances alone' I got it years ago from the bbc.
    It is fascinating reading stuff